A power nap is highly tempting when the our to-do lists are long and we have a break to utilise. However, naps can be a gamble. We may either wake up feeling refreshed, or many times, wake up groggy and more sleepy than ever. Knowing when to nap, and under what conditions, are essential to gain the energy we want when we rest our eyes for a bit.
Naps have been proven to have many benefits. Not only do we feel less sluggish, we may find improvements to our memory and our overall mood. It also puts us in a better mode for work, helping us to work harder and feel less stressed.
The right nap should help you feel ready to take on the rest of your day and work effectively. The wrong nap will make you less productive, and at worst, disrupt your sleep for the night. Our guide is here to give you the tips to have the best nap that you can.
Have Some Coffee Before Your Nap (Yes, Really)
The idea of having coffee before falling asleep may seem counteractive. Using it the right way, however, will help you feel better when you wake up. A coffee nap, as studied by sleep experts, can prove more effective than coffee or naps alone. Experts recommend a cup of coffee, followed by a 20-minute nap immediately after. This pairing will work together to enhance the absorption of caffeine into your bloodstream. Any longer, however, may make you feel more tired.
Sleeping the Right Length
As proven by the coffee nap, too long a nap can make you feel more tired. We may feel the need to sleep for hours to recover from tiredness, but this may make things worse. Studies show that the ideal length of a nap should be around 20 minutes long. This is recommended because any longer can mimic the bodily effect of a full night’s sleep. This contributes to feeling groggy after a long nap.
This will differ for everyone, and for you 20 minutes may not work for you. It is still best to start small. Try to keep it under half an hour, and try out different lengths to see what works. This may take time, but is well worth it if it helps you feel more productive.
If short naps aren’t working for you, you could try the sleep cycle method. Sleep is comprised of cycles of around 90-minute periods. If you are particularly sleep deprived, this method may work better for you. Completing a full cycle means you will wake up more refreshed, without having fallen too deeply asleep.
Find the Ideal Time
Napping for the right length is always beneficial, but doing it at the right time is equally important. Napping at the wrong time will undo any progress you’ve made. Experts at The Sleep Foundation recommend sleeping no later than 2pm. Sleeping before then provides a lighter, REM sleep, preventing grogginess. Sleeping later replicates the slow-wave sleep of a full night’s rest, enhancing tiredness.
This is particularly important if you suffer from sleep problems. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, taking the earliest nap is the best thing you can do to prevent insomnia.
Finding the Right Place
For some, a nap on the couch seems like the best option for a lighter sleep. The answer depends on the individual’s needs. Napping in your bed may create the association of a full night’s sleep, which can induce further tiredness upon waking up. The couch, or anywhere else, may prevent this feeling.
This, however, may not result in a restful snooze. Sleeping away from your bed may cause muscle pain such as backache if your posture is poor. Not only that, napping somewhere public, like your living room, may result in interrupted sleep. A full period of napping, whether 90 minutes or 20, should be done as a whole. Drifting in and out of sleep may cause the feeling of being disoriented upon waking up.
Many sleep scientists recommend fully lying down for the most effective nap. Naps are ultimately, a short sleep, so the most effective position is to replicate your sleeping posture. This can be carried out on a bed, couch, or any other flat surface, depending on your resources.
Block Out Distractions
Once you find your ideal nap length, it is essential to maximise its potential, and be fully uninterrupted. The free time in your day may be short, which means the window of time to nap should include a full sleep cycle. Your environment should be as dark and quiet as possible to avoid distraction. The place you sleep should be an ideal temperature, to ensure you fall asleep quickly. When napping during the brightness of the day, this may be a difficult task.
There are, however, many tools that can help you. See, for example Sleepstar’s range of sleep eye masks. This eye mask blocks out any light, helping you to drift off to sleep quickly during the day. This will help achieve a full period of sleep within the short time you have available.
Consider if a Nap is Right for You
If you find yourself unproductive towards the end of the working day, a nap can work for you. If you feel an afternoon slump that is affecting your mood and health, napping can have serious benefits. This is especially the case for those who are awake, particularly working, especially long hours of the day. If napping is affecting your ability to sleep at night, however, you should perhaps consider ditching naps altogether.
For those with sleeping problems such as insomnia, you may be worsening them. Getting any extra sleep during the day may contribute to those extra hours awake during the night. This will make you feel more tired the next day and needing to sleep in the daytime, creating a cycle. Only if you are severely sleep deprived should you consider napping as an insomniac, and it shouldn’t be too frequently. When you do take a nap – keep to the advice in this list – keep it short, keep it early and work with what suits you as an individual.